CIF Seemingly in No Hurry to Find Leader

The California Interscholastic Federation has been without a leader for three weeks, but no one seems to have noticed.

The largest high school athletic governing body in the nation has been doing business with such anonymity in recent years that its leaders are virtually unknown.

This has to change, and the sooner the better.

The rebuilding process begins with the selection of a new executive director. Tom Byrnes stepped down last month after 15 years. Byrnes was a competent administrator but did little to enhance the reputation of the CIF.

Byrnes announced his retirement plans in December, giving officials plenty of time to find a replacement. Seven months later, they are still looking.

What is taking so long? For starters, the CIF Executive Committee apparently needs practice in closing a deal.

The committee was so sure it had a new boss that it scheduled a news conference earlier this month. It had planned to introduce Dave Gordon, an assistant superintendent with the Elk Grove Unified School District near Sacramento and an administrator with strong ties to the department of education and state legislature.

A day before the news conference, the CIF announced that contract talks with Gordon had broken off and that it would continue its search. The hang-up was over the extent of family health benefits.

It would seem an organization desperately needing fresh ideas would not give up on its top candidate because of an insurance squabble.

And now, since Gordon and the CIF parted ways, no interviewing has been done. Several finalists have been contacted about their possible continued interest in the position, but each was told that no decision would be made until mid-July, at the earliest.

The finalists include Rick Stout, principal at Paradise High near Chico; Margaret Davis, CIF associate commissioner, and Jack Hayes, superintendent of West Sonoma County Union High School District.

"I'm at a point in my career where I'm looking for different challenges and this position would be ideal," said Stout, a former teacher, coach and cattle rancher who spent two years on the CIF strategic planning committee. "I just hope it works out."

Stout is in line for at least one other job, however, and may run into a time problem if the CIF takes too long. Hayes plans to spend July in Europe and would be unavailable for another interview.

The delays have been particularly tough for Davis, who would have seemed a natural for the job, since she has been associate commissioner since 1983. Davis has been passed over once, though, and it would be tough for her to handle twice.

When Gordon dropped out of the running, the CIF should have hired its second choice. Instead, it decided to re-examine the finalists and hold further interviews. Valuable time is being lost, and whoever ends up getting the job will have little time to prepare before the school year begins.

The CIF is a complex organization broken down into 10 individual sections. Its 1,176 member schools have some of the most visible teams and athletes in the country.

Its new leader will need plenty of time to get up to speed. Too much of it has already been wasted.

In the meantime, the CIF office in La Mirada is without a boss. Not that anyone noticed.

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Prep Notes

Many of the state's top track and field athletes participated in the Golden West Invitational in Sacramento last weekend. Senior Joanna Hayes of Riverside North was one of the big winners, finishing first in the 100-high hurdles (13.3 seconds) and 300-low hurdles (40.81). Sophomore Obea Moore of Pasadena Muir won the 400 in 45.88, the fastest high school time in the nation this year . . . The San Luis Obispo baseball team, which conducted an illegal practice May 30 before its Southern Section playoff game against Upland, is under review. Commissioner Dean Crowley said sanctions may be levied later this month . . . Cal State Dominguez Hills will be the site of the 28th L.A. Watts Summer Games sponsored by the Junior Chamber of Commerce. More than 12,000 high school students are expected to compete in 15 sports June 17, 18, 24 and 25 . . . Pitchers Wayne Nix of Sepulveda Monroe and Andy Silva of South Gate have been selected the City Section Division 4-A and 3-A players of the year, respectively, by a group of local sports writers.

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